JOHNSONVILLE, Connecticut (Eagle News) – The clicking of cameras and the flipping of papers were the only things heard inside the small Centerbrook Meeting House located next to the General Store in the rundown town of Johnsonville, Connecticut.
Fifty to sixty people crammed into the building while more than 100 stood outside braving the rain, at times a heavy downpour, other times a light drizzle.
As Brother Glicerio B. Santos, Jr., the General Auditor of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ), signed the last page of the stack of papers before him, the attorney overseeing the transaction announced, “Congratulations!” and with that the crowded erupted into applause breathing life and energy that this town has not known for decades.
The Iglesia Ni Cristo had just purchased the deserted town of Johnsonville, located in East Haddam in Connecticut, marking the second purchase of a town in the United States by the global church. The first property is located in Scenic, South Dakota
The Iglesia Ni Cristo was well represented by ministers from the Philippines, as well as from all over United States and Canada. Members from local congregations within the tri-state region, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, all gathered to witness this momentous occasion.
“I’m really looking forward to what you’re going to do, what you’re going to bring to the town,” said First Selectman (Mayor), Emmett Lyman as he congratulated everyone. “We’re very interested in meeting people and enjoying each other”.
Real estate agent Sherri Milkie, who represented both the seller and the buyer, spoke a few words to thank the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
“Thank you so much for being an incredible client,” Milkie said, “you’re going to do wonderful things with this property, and we’re so excited and we support you a hundred percent.”
While people in the community are unsure what to expect for the town of Johnsonville, Connecticut, all are hopeful that this once abandoned town will be restored and beautified.
“[This town] needs a lot of repair, a lot of upgrades, a lot of restoration work,” said Michael J. Dirgo, Johnsonville Property Manager. “It would be nice to see it back to its shiny days with new paint, working homes, and all back together again. It’d be nice to see this town brought back to life.”
Johnsonville is a 62-acre village. It was once a bustling mill community with access to two state parks, a post office, a bank, a school, a general store, restaurants, and homes. When the former owners passed away, it was auctioned off and started to deteriorate.
“It’s been awful watching it slowly fall apart and get worse and worse and worse and not be taken cared of,” said Lyman.
Abandoned for two decades, the Victorian-era tourist attraction is intended to be revitalized.
According to Church officials, many events and activities, such as a Neighborhood Appreciation Day and community service events, are scheduled to be held in Johnsonville in the near future.
But it is not only the physical appearance that the Church is trying to uplift in this small town.
“Not only will we be breathing life back into the community in a literal sense, but spiritually,” said Iglesia Ni Cristo Minister, Reuel Del Rosario.
The Iglesia Ni Cristo members expressed their excitement about their new endeavor and look forward to further growing their spiritual reach.
With reports from Jennifer Polintan
EBC New York Bureau
(Eagle News Service)